I was once told by a marriage guidance counsellor that it was possible to tell almost straight away whether a couple should stay together or not. This person in the know said that we, Mr H and I should, that is, should be together. I cling to that some days. I also cling to the thought of his smile that can instantly create a smile for me and warmth inside, as I cling to other more intimate moments not for sharing but worth reminding myself of. I also remind myself that if I bottled the countless times the man has made me laugh I’d need a large warehouse on the edge of town for storage. However, right now I could do with visiting that fictitious warehouse and releasing some mirth into our life because to be honest things are currently pretty dire.
Parenting is the problem, the only problem really but the subject of how to parent our children is causing each of us never ending heart ache. The disagreements that occur, usually mid outburst from a child, and the harsh words this induces can leave us both feeling gut wrenchingly sad. Sad that no common ground is to be found, sad that we have yet again turned down this path of such harsh and unforgiving terrain. Sad that such a negative spot could ever have been reached between us. Who knew it would cause this amount of hostility and yet how could we have known?
I suppose we might have looked at our own experiences of being parented and realise that our family lives whilst full of love, the expression of love was in some ways different.
My own upbringing revolved very much around my father and us, the three adoring females in his life, my mum, my sister and I. Led very much by my mum we all aimed to please, him and each other, confrontation was rare but there were often volcanic eruptions of emotions from anyone of us girls. Dad whilst sometimes selfish parented in a patient, unrattled way which demanded respect, which he duly gained. Mum was always loving, always nurturing and always there, holding my hand, hugging and wiping away tears.
Mr H is very protective of his parents and his upbringing which I highly respect and understand. As an outsider entering his family home, in the teenage years of our romance, I was greatly struck by their different family dynamics. This family poked fun at each other, pointed out each other’s downfalls and laughed at them together, using this banter as a currency of love. It took me aback at first but on many levels I gained a respect and admiration for it, almost a hint of jealousy. Slowly through my relationship with Mr H he has opened my eyes to amusement in places I did not previously find it, taught me very much to laugh at myself and most importantly the tonic that laughter can bring to your life.
Pit these two family styles against each other in the arena of parenting, especially adoptive parenting and a skirmish may and has commenced. Poking fun against nurturing love, provoking reaction versus avoiding confrontation giddiness battling calmness are all common conflicts in our household.
I really don’t want to go about listing and pin pointing the many downfalls we both have but the crux of it all is this.
I’m the therapeutic mummy who’s read all the books, changes her approach according to the children’s needs, remains calm, none antagonistic and non-judgemental. I prioritise the wellbeing of my traumatised children. Or so I believe. What he sees I think, is an inconsistent parent who changes her ways to suit herself, alienates him and thinks she knows it all.
He’s the hot headed father who provokes confrontation with silly banter and never listens to me. When actually he’s a father wanting to connect with his children using what he knows best, banter, whilst, being practically supportive but struggling with the emotional bit. He’s also tired and depleted from hearing his wife tell him he’s not doing it right.
When we reach a space such as this one with its blackened edges clouding all route of escape, I worry. I worry for our future; can our hearts withstand the strain?
I have no magical resolution for this problem; I know not what to do, other than what we normally do. Find time to talk without shouting. We do this best when out walking or out eating, creating a more amicable space in which to discuss, share and see it from the others point of view.
I also look to our children, knowing they too feel the strain between us at times and that guilt kicks sharply at my stomach. I worry about the damage our friction my cause, but then with a wicked smile of mischief and a witty retort one of them will remind me. Remind me that his father’s humour has become imbedded in their hearts, bringing strength to their personality and giving them confidence to enjoy laughter and fun. Then there is the tenderness that they show when I’m feeling a bit low, bringing kisses and hugs, asking “what’s wrong?” and “shall I make you a tea?” I’m hoping this empathy has been learnt from empathy shown to them. So as I worry about our hearts being strained by differences I see too the strengths our differences bring.
Someone once told me, not a marriage guidance counsellor this time, that it is not always the good times that matter but your ability to see through the bad times together that truly make a marriage. I believe this to be true. I also know that not three weeks ago Mr H and I spent a lovely night away together where we laughed, talked and basked in each others company feeling heart warmingly close. I’m trying very much to cling to this, as I also cling to the belief that we will pass through these dark clouds and find clear skies again as we have many times before.
Addendum : Mr H has organised a nice lunch and a walk for us tomorrow.